- Title: WHO seeks to advance 'difficult' virus origin studies
- Date: 13th August 2021
- Summary: WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA (FILE - FEBRUARY 4, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WHO EXPERTS LEAVING COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTRE WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA (FILE - FEBRUARY 10, 2021) (REUTERS) CHINESE OFFICIAL SHAKING HANDS WITH WHO EXPERT CHINESE OFFICIALS AND EXPERTS TALKING EXPERT AND CHINESE OFFICIAL EMBRACING SECURITY STANDING IN FRONT OF HOTEL ENTRANCE
- Embargoed: 27th August 2021 15:04
- Keywords: China Covid-19 WHO Wuhan lab origin pandemic study
- Location: WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA / GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
- City: WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA / GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: Europe,Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA005EQ45YYV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: PART AUDIO QUALITY AS INCOMING
The World Health Organization on Friday (August 13) urged countries to collaborate on further virus origins studies, saying that the process was proving "difficult" after the findings from an initial China mission proved inconclusive.
The inability of the WHO to say where and how the virus began spreading has meant that tensions among its members, especially between the United States and China where COVID-19 cases were first identified in December 2019, have continued.
The WHO late on Thursday called for all governments to cooperate to accelerate studies into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and "to depoliticize the situation".
To that end, it specified that a new advisory group called the International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens will support "the rapid undertaking" of further studies.
"It's a difficult process," WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said at a U.N. briefing on Friday, describing additional studies as a "collective responsibility" and saying consultations with its 194 members were ongoing. "It will take time and the scientists need to have the space to be able to work in a quiet manner without multiple pressure or political debate."
"We should work all together. You, me, everyone wants to know the origin of the worst pandemic in a century," she said.
Tensions have centred on the question of whether a China laboratory leak could have occurred. The WHO mission in March called that scenario extremely unlikely, saying the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal but that further research was needed.
However, in remarks broadcast in Denmark on Thursday (August 12), the WHO mission leader Peter Ben Embarek said that the lab hypothesis merited further study.
A WHO official said via email its statement on advancing the virus origins study bore no relation to those remarks, noting that the Ben Embarek interview was filmed months ago.
Washington on Friday (August 13) welcomed the WHO plan for next steps, noting the "emphasis on scientific-based studies and data driven efforts to find the origins of this pandemic so that we can better detect, prevent and respond to future disease outbreaks."
President Joe Biden in May ordered aides to find answers on COVID-19 origins and causes of COVID-19 and report back in 90 days.
China said it has never rejected cooperation on tracing COVID-19 origins, state media quoted the country's vice foreign minister as saying. It was continuing to conduct "follow-up and supplementary" research into the origins of the novel coronavirus as specified by the WHO earlier this year, said Ma Zhaoxu, according to Xinhua.
(Production: Cecile Mantovani)
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